Vic Kohring envisions himself as some kind of martyr. A martyr for what he and some of his few remaining ardent adherents still believe to be his "cause." Or "mission," if you prefer.
I missed going out to the Eklutna overpass this morning. Our own Siberian irises are in bloom anyway, so why go there but to be with and speak with Kohring, and to observe his last stand at a place I have seen him many times before.
During six legislative campaigns Vic was out there in all kinds of autumn weather, waving in a down vest under rain gear, or coveralls or even a snowmobile suit, depending upon the weather. Although I never voted for Vic, I did stop and offer him coffee and donuts more than once.
Standing there with him for a few minutes, one could get a sense of the depth of popularity he felt from passing motorists. Almost ten years ago, in 1998, as I stood with Vic for about fifteen minutes, sometime between 7:00 and 7:15 a.m, hundreds of motorists honked as they drove by in a pelting, chilly October rain. Almost every oversized Dodge diesel pickup truck honked and honked as they passed, seeing Vic's proud, almost haughty waving stance outside their vehicle as a reflection of their self-perceived superiority over people around them, from within their toasty, cushy, yet rugged trucks.
When I visited him there in October, 1998, it wasn't to talk about the campaign. He was running against a good friend to whom I had donated - Wasilla educator and community activist, Lucy Hope. Vic and I talked about John Philip Sousa, band music, my band at Mat-Su College, and Vic's high school band teacher, Jim Parcell. After we ate the donuts, I continued on in to Anchorage, for an early morning meeting.
A few nights later, on KAKM's "Running" debates, I watched Vic degrade himself by purposefully tripping Lucy Hope up, with an inaccurate reference to another Wasilla activist, Karl Schleich, the man behind the Wasilla Wonderland project. I thought, "Vic is turning into just another political opportunist by being this dishonest in such a coldly calculating way."
The next day, driving by Vic, on an early November day that almost promised warmth, thinking of his debate with Lucy, I was tempted to flip him off, but just waved, and drove by, choosing not to confront him yet about his conduct on "Running." (I did bring it up with him that following winter, at a constituent meeting at the Wasilla LIO).
I was going to go out and talk to Vic this morning. I wanted to compare his reception today by drivers to the ones I had seen and heard before. I chickened out. I had some chores to do, but I could have done them later - like now. But I just couldn't go there.
I'm not quite sure why - I'm sure he'd have looked me in the eye, returning my deep, inquisitive look, as he always has, showing a broad grin.. He'd have told me how glad he was to see me.
We might have talked about the fishing he hasn't been able to do because of his back problems. I'd have asked if there's anything he might need in prison - vitamins, writing stuff? He would have probably expressed his confidence that he'll win his appeal against his conviction, once he's outside of what he genuinely believes to be the nefarious control of Judge Sedwick.
It's 11:00 a.m. now. Vic has surrendered his freedom to the Federal authorities.
I have no idea whether or not he will modify his thinking on what he is going through, once he is behind bars. His belief system is rather inflexible. And he still has, as I mentioned, a few friends who strongly believe he was framed. I guess that is a big part of why I couldn't go out to see him this morning. I didn't want to hear "his side of the story" again, like we have been hearing since the beginning of the post-trial period.